Update on our fight to keep ourselves a CARBON NEUTRAL household and business.
It's not going well. We really thought we were making progress with Torridge District Council (TDC). After maybe two months of arguing with them and pointing out the legal responsibility they had they finally agreed that the solar installation will be 'material planning considerations', that means they must give them a consideration in the final decision. However, they can, once they have considered it, say it's not important.
Part of me hoped that since TDC had their own carbon neutral target and were responsible for energy efficiency projects they would feel they needed to, at least, show they thought it was important otherwise they'll be accused of being hypocrites.
We were heartened that they also commissioned an 'independent report' to evaluated the impact of shading on the solar panels. I mean, it's independent of the council so it will surely be unbiased, won't it? Anyway no one from this company, Carbon Green Consulting, contacted us as I thought they would. I mean, surely they'd want to know where the panels are. The next thing I know, on a Friday afternoon (it's always a Friday afternoon) with less than a week to go before the committee voted on weather to build in front of my panels I found out they had done their report. On seeing the report they put my panels in the wrong place where they will not be as badly effected by the buildings.
On the Monday I contacted our lawyer we'd been discussing this with and sure enough he was mortified. “They can't do that”, he said. “They have”, said I.
He throws together a quick letter saying the panels are not in the right place so any conclusions made are not valid; for that and many other reasons you must delay the decision until that is resolved and you can come up with a viable report. In the meantime the council cannot use the report to assess the impact on our power generation. We throw at him some money.
I write to every single local councillor on the committee to ensure they also are aware of the error. I get two that respond saying they think it's not acceptable either. Hope, maybe.
It was not good. On that Thursday TDC ignored the request for a delay and presented the information that Carbon Green Consulting imagined as though it was real. In the end it was a close vote but they approved the development.
We do have options. Not all involve us throwing money we don't have at it. As TDC have clearly made a mistake we could get compensation but they do not need to overturn the decision.
One things for sure; this process continues and it's not going to be fun.
What I will say is this. If anyone is considering investing in a renewable energy installation remember that it will not be protected by law, even, like us, you have permission from the same council to build it. Anyone can come and cut off your light, shelter you from the wind and you can do very little about it. We've even contacted organizations recently that are there to promote renewable projects and they just wish us luck but say they can't help. This is a ridiculous situation which is actually rather upsetting. If anyone can help us out we would love the hear from you.
PS- We found out later Carbon Green Consulting already work for the council (and councils) and are not even affiliated to any professional organizations. They followed the brief from TDC and TDC told them where the panels where not. Independent? Not really.